Mr. Blaine to Mr. Lincoln.

No. 141.]

Sir: I have to inclose herewith for your information a copy of a letter of the 15th of October last from Mr. A. Bunker, an American missionary in Burmah, who writes in behalf of the American missionaries in that country, who are said to be a hundred and twenty-three in number. These missionaries are maintained by allowances from missionary boards in the United States and in many instances probably have no other source of support. It seems that the Indian Government at first imposed a tax on these allowances as income, but has now imposed a similar burden on moneys paid for the support of the families of these missionaries in the United States.

The Department hopes that Her Majesty’s Government will look into this matter, which, as stated, appears to involve hardship and injustice to a most meritorious class of persons engaged in labors which have always received the encouragement and support of both Governments.

I am, etc.,

James G. Blaine.
[Inclosure in No. 141.]

Mr. Bunker to Mr. Blaine.

My Dear Sir: From the knowledge I have of you I do not think I shall ask advice of you in vain.

By way of introduction, I am from the State of Maine, a graduate of Colby University and of Newton Theological Seminary, and a missionary of the A. B. M. Union. I have been in Burmah 23 years.

I am writing you in behalf of 123 missionaries, all American citizens. I reluctantly trouble you in the great affairs of state in which you are engaged, but I do not forget that it is the glory of our country that the humblest citizen can appeal to the greatest, with the assurance that his case will meet with all the attention it merits.

Our case is this: We missionaries give our whole time and strength to the work of Christianizing, educating, and civilizing these heathen English subjects, supported solely by the benevolent in America. We receive not one rupee of English money for our support. We draw nothing from the country by way of trade. We bring thousands of American money into the country, but take nothing out.

The Indian Government has imposed an income tax on its subjects and on us. We have represented the above facts to the governor-general as a reason why we should not pay an income tax, especially as our allowances from America are not regarded by our supporters as remuneration for services rendered; but the reply we receive is substantially as follows: “It pleases the governor-general to tax all missionaries, and you must be taxed.” We should submit to this with what cheerfulness we could, but a new order has now been issued, which appears to us to be so ultra vires and so unjust that we can not remain quiet without an effort to secure protection from our own Government. The new order demands that we shall pay income tax on all moneys paid for the support of our families in America. This seems very much like the spirit which [Page 322] led the English to assume the right to search our sailing vessels on the high seas, which led to the war of 1812. It looks to us like an insult to our nationality in assuming such powers.

I write, therefore, in behalf of my associates to ask if there is any ground on which we may bring this matter before you officially for your interference or help. Any advice you may give us shall be strictly confidential. This matter is a small thing compared with the great questions you are daily considering, but it appears to us to affect a principle, to claim a right, which we, as American citizens, can not safely grant, and which under other circumstances might become of some importance. It affects us who have families in America most seriously.

If you will advise us, you will add a new bond to those which bind us to the best and most glorious government that ever existed, which is more beloved the longer we live in a foreign country, and for which we pray daily.

I am, etc.,

A. Bunker.